Journalists from Slate, the Guardian, the Atlantic Cities, the Huffington Post, and Mother Jones meet up at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas, to hold the press to account.
Climate Desk’s SXSW Eco panel will examine the media’s coverage of climate change. Watch it live here at 4:30 pm Central Time on October 8.
This past month should have been the biggest month for climate change journalism in six years.
With the release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report in Stockholm, there were a wealth stories for journalists to pursue. Scientists are now more certain than ever that humans are causing global warming. Sea level rise projections have been increased—extremely bad news for coastal mega-cities. And researchers have given a stark warning about the irreversibility of much of global warming, and how it will literally play out over a millennium.
But in recent weeks, we’ve seen a flood of media coverage advancing dubious claims pushed by global warming skeptics, including:
* A large number of news article headlines framed around an alleged global warming “pause” that scientists have dismissed as statistically meaningless and insignificant.
* A British tabloid, The Mail on Sunday, portraying the sixth lowest Artic sea ice level on record as a “rebound” that undermines climate science—a claim that then reverberated in conservative media and even made its way to the halls of Congress.
Granted, this problem isn’t new: There’s a long history of the press relying on phony “balanced” coverage to cast doubt on what scientists know about the climate. That was the case even before the major cutbacks in science and environmental reporting at many media outlets over the past decade.
At SXSW Eco, the acclaimed environment and sustainability conference, Climate Desk is convening a panel of top climate journalists to diagnose and address the media’s chronic failings in covering this issue. The event, part of our Climate Desk Live series, will be at 4:30 pm Central Time on October 8, 2013, at the Austin Convention Center, and will feature journalists Kiera Butler from Mother Jones, Suzanne Goldenberg from The Guardian, John Metcalfe from The Atlantic Cities, Phil Plait (aka the “Bad Astronomer“) from Slate, and Kate Sheppard from The Huffington Post. It will be hosted by Climate Desk’s Chris Mooney (me).
The conversation will focus on why the media at large has struggled when it comes to reporting on climate change, and on why there is so little apparent interest—from the media, politicians, and public—in understanding and addressing the climate crisis. The panelists will also cite examples of good climate journalism and explain how the media can do a better job in reporting climate change.
This post has been updated since publication.
Climate Desk Live teams up with thirst DC and ScienceOnline Climate. The event is sold out, but you can watch it live here.
Livestream to begin Thursday, August 15, at 7:30 pm ET.:
People are getting tired of the same old story about global warming. They often tune out warnings of impending catastrophe; but it’s not like they trust the deniers, either. The trouble is, the standard global warming narrative is stale and alienating—and perhaps worst of all, stuck in the technical weeds.
That’s why it’s time to apply lessons from the theory and practice of high quality science communication to this pressing issue. And in a new collaboration called thirst:Climate, Climate Desk Live is co-sponsoring an event to feature frame-breaking talks on climate—talks that are both innovative and thought-provoking. The goal is nothing less than to force us to think differently about the planetary future into which we’re hurtling.
Created in collaboration with thirst DC—an innovative science-based creative agency—and ScienceOnline Climate; (a special DC-based iteration of the highly successful annual ScienceOnline conference for web-savvy science communicators), this event will take place on August 15 in Washington, DC. The venue will be 1776, at 1133 15th St NW (just blocks from the White House). Doors open at 6 p.m., and talks start at 7:30. The event is sold out, but you can watch it live right here.
You can also join the conversation on Twitter using #CDLive.
All talks have been specially developed in collaboration with thirst DC’s presentation trainers. The speakers will bring fresh, unconventional storytelling about global warming. The speakers will be:
Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones magazine/Climate Desk: “How to Talk to Your Republican Dad About Global Warming”
Jamie Vernon, American Association for the Advancement of Science, science & technology policy fellow: “How to Get Rich Off of Global Warming”
Liz Burakowski, University of New Hampshire, PhD student in earth and environmental science: “How Global Warming Is Melting the Ski Industry”
Melanie Tannenbaum, Scientific American blogger & University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign PhD student in social psychology: “This Is Your Brain on Climate Change”
Hosting the event are the thirst co-founder and creative director, Eric Schulze, and New York Times best-selling author and Climate Desk Live host, Chris Mooney.
thirst DC is an interactive learning space that hosts nerdy events as an active branding and social experiment. Using the science of creativity and creative productivity (including data and information collected from studies performed on Nobel laureates), we engineer learning, entertainingly. Usually held in a lounge-like environment, thirst curates highly entertaining—but also substantive—live science, fashion, music, and socially conscious talks. Thirst has worked with The Smithsonian, NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, and others, and we increase their awesome by re-imagining their core values in a nerdy manner.
Climate Desk Live is live briefing series sponsored by Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are Mother Jones, Grist, Slate, The Atlantic, the Guardian, Wired, PBS’s Need to Know, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. It is hosted by award-winning science journalist Chris Mooney, the author of four books on the relation between science, politics, and society.
ScienceOnlineClimate is the first thematic spin-off of the highly successful annual ScienceOnline conference for web-savvy science communicators. It will take place in Washington, DC, August 15-17. ScienceOnline cultivates the ways science is conducted, shared, and communicated online. They convene a diverse and growing community of researchers, science writers, artists, programmers, and educators—those who conduct or communicate science online—for meaningful face-to-face conversations around timely, relevant issues. ScienceOnline nurtures this global, ongoing, online community and facilitate collaborations which would not have been previously possible.
1776 is a platform to reinvent America by connecting the hottest startups from around the world with the assets of the most powerful city on Earth. In the heart of Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the White House, 1776 is where startups tackling major national challenges in sectors such as education, energy, health care, urban planning, and government can engage to build the future of our economy. For more information, visit http://1776dc.com/ or follow at @1776dc.
Join us for a joint Climate Desk Live and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) event moderated by Chris Mooney discussing the alarming science behind climate change’s increasingly wild weather featuring senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and top climate researcher Jennifer Francis.
- Date and Time: Thursday, June 6, 2013, 4:30 p.m.
- Location: WWF Building, 1250 24th St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.
- To attend, please RSVP here.
Stu Ostro is a senior meteorologist at the Weather Channel, and was a longtime climate change skeptic—until the devastating 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, when he started documenting hundreds of cases of extreme and unusual weather and the patterns associated with them, and became convinced that something is very off about the atmosphere.
Jennifer Francis is a top climate researcher focused on the Arctic, whose work has drawn dramatic attention in the context of the very warm U.S. winter of 2012 (and attendant droughts and wildfires), the Russian heat wave and Pakistan floods of 2010, and other extreme weather events.
Both are now leading voices in diagnosing the wild weather that the world has seen of late—most recently, an intense winter in the UK that threatens to last throughout April.
For Ostro and Francis, the explanation for what we’re seeing is simple. More heat in the Earth’s system due to global warming is felt everywhere, and that includes the massive-scale patterns of atmospheric circulation that give us our weather.
Ostro’s observations suggest that global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.
Francis’s scientific story is complementary. She sees the rapid warming of the Arctic weakening the northern hemisphere jet stream, and thus, once again, slowing down the weather, leaving a given pattern stuck in place for longer (making any event potentially more disruptive and extreme).
We don’t know—yet—what the next extreme manifestations of these large-scale changes in weather patterns will be. But as Ostro and Francis warn, we had better be getting ready for them—because this isn’t your grandparent’s Planet Earth any longer.
We hope you can join us for Climate Desk Live on June 6th, 2013, as we discuss this important subject.
“Real skeptics are swayed by evidence.”
One of the chief scientists behind the famous “hockey stick” graph, Michael Mann is among the most influential climate researchers in the United States.
He’s also, perhaps, the most regularly attacked.
It started with swipes at the hockey stick—the graph seemed to show global warming so unequivocally that skeptics made it their number one target. The furor became even more intense when some of Mann’s emails were exposed in the “ClimateGate” pseudo-scandal. Now, Mann receives regular threats and has found his personal emails pursued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
And all of this has only made Michael Mann more outspoken.
At the next Climate Desk Live event, Mann and host Chris Mooney will discuss new research that reaffirms the validity of the hockey stick. They’ll also talk about public opinion on climate change—and why Mann believes it’s changing.
Please join us:
Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 6:30 p.m. at the University of California Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. To attend, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate deniers threw all their might at disproving the famous “hockey stick” climate change graph. Here’s why they failed.
Back in 1998, a little known climate scientist named Michael Mann and two colleagues published a paper that sought to reconstruct the planet’s past temperatures going back half a millennium before the era of thermometers—thereby showing just how out of whack recent warming has been. The finding: Recent northern hemisphere temperatures had been “warmer than any other year since (at least) AD 1400.” The graph depicting this result looked rather like a hockey stick: After a long period of relatively minor temperature variations (the “shaft”), it showed a sharp mercury upswing during the last century or so (“the blade”).
The report moved quickly through climate science circles. Mann and a colleague soon lengthened the shaft of the hockey stick back to the year 1000 AD—and then, in 2001, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prominently featured the hockey stick in its Third Assessment Report. Based on this evidence, the IPCC proclaimed that “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years.”
And then all hell broke loose.
Mann tells the full story of the hockey stick—and the myriad unsuccessful attacks on it—in his 2012 book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines; Mann will appear at a Climate Desk Live event on May 15 to discuss this saga. But to summarize a very complex history of scientific and political skirmishes in a few paragraphs:
The hockey stick was repeatedly attacked, and so was Mann himself. Congress got involved, with demands for Mann’s data and other information, including a computer code used in his research. Then the National Academy of Sciences weighed in in 2006, vindicating the hockey stick as good science and noting:
“The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world.”
It didn’t change the minds of the deniers, though—and soon Mann and his colleagues were drawn into the 2009 “Climategate” pseudo-scandal, which purported to reveal internal emails that (among other things) seemingly undermined the hockey stick. Only, they didn’t.
In the meantime, those wacky scientists kept doing what they do best—finding out what’s true. As Mann relates, over the years other researchers were able to test his work using “more extensive datasets, and more sophisticated methods. And the bottom line conclusion doesn’t change.” Thus the single hockey stick gradually became what Mann calls a “hockey team.” “If you look at all the different groups, there are literally about two dozen” hockey sticks now, he says.
Mother Jones‘ Jaeah Lee traced the strange evolution of the hockey stick story in this video:
Indeed, two just-published studies support the hockey stick more powerfully than ever. One, just out in Nature Geoscience, featuring more than 80 authors, showed with extensive global data on past temperatures that the hockey stick’s shaft seems to extend back reliably for at least 1,400 years. Recently in Science, meanwhile, Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University and his colleagues extended the original hockey stick shaft back 11,000 years. “There’s now at least tentative evidence that the warming is unprecedented over the entire period of the Holocene, the entire period since the last ice age,” says Mann.
So what does it all mean? Well, here’s the millennial scale irony: Climate deniers threw everything they had at the hockey stick. They focused immense resources on what they thought was the Achilles Heel of global warming research—and even then, they couldn’t hobble it. (Though they certainly sowed plenty of doubt in the mind of the public.)
What’s more, even if they’d succeeded, in a scientific sense it wouldn’t have even mattered.
“Climate deniers like to make it seem like the entire weight of evidence for climate change rests on the hockey stick,” explains Mann. “And that’s not the case. We could get rid of all these reconstructions, and we could still know that climate change is a threat, and that we’re causing it.” The basic case for global warming caused by humans rests on basic physics—and, basic thermometer readings from around the globe. The hockey stick, in contrast, is the result of a field of research called paleoclimatology (the study of past climates) that, while fascinating, only provides one thread of evidence among many for what we’re doing to the planet.
Meanwhile, the hockey stick’s blade doesn’t just stop rising of its own accord. It’s just going to go up, and up, and up, as the image above, combining the Marcott hockey stick with projections of where temperatures are headed by 2100, plainly shows.
When he shows that graph to audiences, says Mann, “I often hear an audible gasp.” In this sense, the hockey stick does indeed matter—for it dramatizes just how much human irresponsibility, in a relatively short period of time, can devastate the only home we have.